Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Did Grover rewrite history?

You've probably been following the "Is Grover over?" controversy. Republicans have been backing away from Grover Norquist's "no taxes" pledge, signalling a new era in which Mr. N no longer controls the American agenda.

To counter this trend, Norquist got on teevee yesterday and reminded everyone that "Poppy" Bush lost the 1992 election because he broke his "Read my lips: No new taxes" pledge.

But is that the real reason why Bush lost? Or has Norquist simply repeated a beloved political fairy tale?

It behooves us all to recall that the man who won in 1992, Bill Clinton, made an explicit promise to raise taxes -- on the affluent. And he did just that. And the country got out of the red.

Interestingly, President George H.W. Bush was forced to break his word and raise taxes in 1990 because he faced a "fiscal cliff" of his own, in the form of a balanced budget co-sponsored by Phil Gramm. As you may recall, Gramm is the same fellow who deep-sixed Glass-Steagall, thereby unleashing the financial demons of 2008. Few politicians have done as much harm to the U.S. as ol' Phil did. 

It should be noted that the other fellow running in 1992, Ross Perot, made balancing the budget the centerpiece of his campaign. Thus, he too advocated raising taxes on the wealthy, and on gasoline.

Clearly, the low-tax candidate in that three-way race was George H.W. Bush. He apologized repeatedly for breaking his vow. He went around the country assuring audiences that he would never do so again.

Yet Clinton won. The public knowingly chose the guy who said "Read my lips: New taxes!" Then as now, the American public proved itself both elastic and educable. People understand that you can't fight a deficit without increasing revenues.

Taxes, in short, are not the reason why Bush lost. By 1994, however, the Republicans had rewritten the national memory of the contest that had taken place just two years earlier -- and in this revised standard version of recent events, raising taxes was the factor that cost Poppy the election.

Now Grover Norquist hopes that, once again, fairy tale history will triumph over actual history.


cracker said...

It appears that at least some elected Republicans are starting to ask themselves the question,
"Who the hell is Grover Norquist and why should I pay any attention to anything he says?" The more astute among them may have finally understood the basic arithmetic involved in the fact that the US can't continue to create an extra trillion or so dollars out of thin air every year and have the rest of the world accept it at as money. Some of them may even be intelligent enough to understand that Poppy Bush lost his re-election bid because he was a wealthy, privileged white asshole who had spent his entire life cut off from ordinary people. (Sort of like Romney). The thing I remember about him is the time he and his wife went to a retail store during the election campaign to "do some shopping" to show that they were just real folks, and he didn't know what a bar code was. Eight year old kids from the ghetto knew, but he didn't.

Mr. Mike said...

Bill Clinton won in part because of his charisma, American politics has always been part beauty contest. But that's not my point. The three stooges Gramm, Leach, and Bliley were successful in destroying America because greedy Democrats gave them a veto proof majority, Clinton had no choice but to sign the bill. We see the same greed and or stupidity in today's Democrat, we are so boned.

Barbara said...

I don't think I've ever voted for a Republican but "no new taxes" was not the first issue that struck me about Bush. Iraq, his connection to the Iran Contra affair, yes.

But the thing that actually turned the switch off even listening to Bush was a strictly emotional push: When in the debate with Clinton, while Clinton was speaking, he looked at his watch with that face of bored entitlement.
Switch. Off.

Anonymous said...

History is messy, with many competing lines of evident causation to pick from-- the historian's task.

Some claimed causal links are mythological, which once set in place, are repeated endlessly as axiomatic.

A confounding variable in this scenario is that although Clinton certainly did advocate a higher top bracket, he also strongly campaigned on a middle class tax cut, another tax cut for the working poor and more (doubling the EIC), and on doubling the expensible capital deduction for small businesses. The last two survived his Greenspan meeting.

I'd say Bush lost because he got primaried and beaten up by his own party dissidents, plus had Perot as his personal enemy (from POW/MIA controversies). Perot was not motivated by the no new taxes pledge's reversal, but perhaps Pat Buchanan's primary bid was, in part.

Still, overall, the desultory and jobless recovery, which saw unemployment rise from the low 7%s to 7.8%, must be considered key to even the Buchanan candidacy, and thus perhaps the one factor that can bear the sole credit or blame above all other explanatory factors if one is to be picked.


Anonymous said...

"The more astute among them may have finally understood the basic arithmetic involved in the fact that the US can't continue to create an extra trillion or so dollars out of thin air every year and have the rest of the world accept it at as money."

Im sympathetic but if it aint broke... What makes you sure that the rest of the world has stopped accepting the IOUs? I see no sign of a run on the currency.


cracker said...

Harry: the world still accepts dollars because anyone who doesn't ends up dead. Saddam Hussien stopped accepting dollars for oil and look at him now. Quaddafi talked openly of issuing a new currency that could be used by a conglomerate of African nations. That didn't pan out for him either.
If there are no limits to printing money, then let's emulate the Weimar Republic or Zimbabwe. Start printing trillion dollar bills and give every citizen a sackful every month. Then we'll all be rich. And we won't have to hear any more about debt cliffs or Grover Norquist. Cut taxes to zero for everyone and just print it. We can pay off the national debt with paper. Good times.

OTE admin said...

That is utter nonsense that Bill Clinton "had no choice" but to sign the Gramm-Leach-Bliley act. Even if not a single person in Congress was opposed, Clinton had the moral duty to have vetoed it. He didn't because he supported it like so many neolibs in the Democratic Party, and therefore he is just as much responsible as any Republican for having approved a law that helped to tank the U.S. economy. Symbolism is important, by the way.

Joseph Cannon said...

oh fer chrissakes, Susan. I wasn't even talking about Glass Steagall, except en passant. You're becoming weird and obsessed.

And also wrong.